Category Archives: Dev

Quick Project Names Demo

At work, I’m trying to convince people that we should auto-generate at least a suggested code name for our project names. It’s an important thing for compliance and secrecy. You’d rather someone is overheard talking in the elevator about “Project Icy Gneiss” than about “the restructuring of Acme Corp”.

I wanted to make the point that if you just have a small list of adjectives and nouns you quickly get a vast space of possible names – more than we’ll exhaust.  But a working demo is more persuasive than logic.

I knocked this together last night: Projects-a-Plenty.


Used bootstrap & angular which is kind of overkill on something this tiny.

Mistakes were made, tears were shed

Orbital 0.2.2 – Mistakes Were Made


This is a tweak to fix some problems people told me about on the Orbital Feed Reader GitHub Issues page.

Some folks were getting a very bad experience during the install – everything goes blank – or they were able to install and then couldn’t add feeds or read feeds. Not good for a feed reader!  I traced down a problem where if you had a specific new default collation on your database, the way I initialized the database tables made everything go boom.  It’s fixed now, but it’s part of the problem of supporting a lot of different configurations without a giant automated test lab.

The other was that someone pointed out there is an improved PressThis page in the latest version of WordPress.  Everything was working, but you’d get a nudge message saying that there was a new way to use PressThis and why are you going this old way?  Updated and I think it’s a really good experience now!

I also did some cleanup and logging improvements so that I can work with folks who have problems in a better way.

From Jekyll to Hugo

Sometimes simpler is better.

After being away from Orbital for a bit, I started revving my engines a bit by trying a new project on the subway and hacknight. Project Munchausen is about doing some writing and exploring some ideas – so I tried to get myself away from doing too much programming on it. Since it is just writing, I wanted to avoid falling into the trap of using a big content management system like WordPress.

I started exploring with the first Static Site Generator I know of: Jekyll. Jekyll powers the Pages feature on GitHub. I got really far, but felt really constrained. It felt like Jekyll was trying to push me to turn my site into a blog, like the downhill path of Jekyll was to create a blog.

I didn’t want to create a blog – I want to make something that’s an exploration of a subject. It will change over time, so it should have an RSS feed generated, but I didn’t want to only have a timeline view of things.

I don’t know how I happened on Hugo but it seemed perfect. The templates are simple, Go is a pretty simple language to use, and the organization of the content is really easy to understand.

In Hugo, you have a directory named content. Under that directory, any other directories are Sections.  Content goes in a section as a Markdown file. Templates can iterate over those sections and their contents.  Easy peasy.

So far, I’ve gotten farther with Hugo in a few subway rides than I have with long sessions wrangling Jekyll. My goal is to put something up on the web in a month.

Orbital Feed Reader 0.1.9 Codenamed “BORN FREE” is out!

Last night I pushed out the final changes to uncage version 0.1.9 and get it out in the wild.
MAX LAZER tears off on his own  to explore Oregon

This version is mostly about giving you freedom. You should be able to easily import your stuff from other platforms into Orbital Feed Reader to use it. If you decide that you don’t want to use Orbital Feed Reader any more, you should have an easy way to leave. Any software that doesn’t tell you how to leave it is something you should be suspicious of.

Get Feeds IN

Share your OPML

For Feed Readers, the standard way to exchange lists of subscriptions is a standard called OPML. It’s an old format, but it’s how they all exchange lists of feeds. I’ve buffed up the OPML import to handle larger numbers of feeds. After you import the file you have a chance to look over the feeds and edit them, tag them or exclude them entirely. Hit save and they’ll all flow into the backend.


Get Feeds OUT

But we also don’t want Orbital to be a lobster trap for you. If you import that kind of data I also want you to be able to export that kind of data. Now Orbital is good at exporting your feeds. If you are logged in – we’ll export a file with all your public and private subscriptions and let you take that wherever you want. Some folks want to share their OPML publicly – if you aren’t logged in, hitting the same URL gives you only the public feeds. All your private stuff should stay safe!

Read Lotsa Feeds

Now that Orbital can handle tons of feeds coming in I wanted it to be easy to actually sort through them. Feed Tags now start off collapsed and you can expand them anytime by using the little twiddlers next to each. That’s a technical term. The twiddlers make it much more manageable to see 200 feeds over many subject areas.

Orbital Feed Reader 0.1.8 Codenamed “BEAUTY TREATMENT” is out!


The most common feedback I’ve heard from folks on Orbital is that it’s not very good looking.  It does the job, but it isn’t a pleasure to look at.

I assume these people are all supermodels, so it looks like Orbital is doing great among the high fashion set.

I got out my scissors, called in the wardrobe department, applied polish and buffed with a chamois. This is the new smooth look, designed to blend in with the new admin themes of WordPress.

Hey, good lookin’!


Beauty comes in all thicknesses

Along the way, I’ve added some features – now it is responsive, cleaner and is even usable on my Galaxy S5. Check out this hot resizing action!

Future attractions and graceful aging

Coming soon are some cool things. First, I’m working on version 0.1.9, code named Born Free. It will deal with the how to leave Orbital and how to get into Orbital. I’d never want to trap you!

Second, WordPress is going to upgrade to version 4.0 soon. I’ll be getting Orbital ready for that, and the new REST API should make it easy to build a better mobile experience for Orbital.

Press for Orbital

Two new reviews for Orbital bring a smile to my face!
WordPress Plugins A-Z gave Orbital a 4/5 rating:

This is a great feed reader especially if you are doing research for a post or if you are like many people out there who write additional articles based on what they read. This make it easy to get a pull quote from an article and drop it right into a post. While the layout and functionality is a little raw in its appearance it seems to work very well and to give it a good go I added it to my secret blog site as a place to test some ranting on article and stories. And it seems to work quite well..

That’s great feedback and I feel like I do need to work on the style and appearance – it’s tough and I need help.

Jeff Chandler over at WPTavern also reviewed Orbital, comparing it to Feedly and Google Reader. It’s a lukewarm review – he doesn’t like the interface and feels like Feedly plus PressThis is find for him. Still, he’s offered to help me by looking at revamps of the interface.

Koans for Programmers

I just stumbled on The Codeless Code, a collection of fables and Koans for programmers. It’s brilliant, if a terrible rabbit hole of procrastination – I’ve just burned a few hours clicking through random stories. Here’s a good one to get the flavor, Case 41 is called Garbage:

Java master Suku was investigating the software of a distant temple. On her monitor large swaths of text glowed not black but green, indicating that reams of code had been commented out.

“Curious,” said Suku. “I have opened a fine clock, and discovered orange rinds and fish bones.”

The head monk explained that the inactive code was no longer necessary, yet he had ordered his clan to leave it in place: for if it someday became desirable to restore the logic then the code could simply be uncommented, rather than wastefully written from scratch.

“Understandable,” nodded Suku.

The next day the monks assembled again for the Java master’s inspection. With concern they reported that the head monk could not be found. Suku gestured up into the rafters where the missing monk dangled from a strong rope, by the neck. A foul odor wafted downwards.

“Your head monk’s services are no longer necessary,” said Suku. “Yet let his corpse moulder above you from this day forward. After all, his methods may someday become desirable again, and it would be wasteful to train another monk from scratch.”

In her final report, Suku noted a swift change in the clan’s coding practices, and credited the good example set by the deceased head monk. We should consider his reinstatement, she wrote.

A Vim macro is just a series of characters.

I just learned something that gave me a EUREKA moment. The text you type in vim is also potentially instructions to vim and the instructions are just text. You can record a macro, a series of keystrokes that you play back, in Vim by typing:

  1. q
  2. a letter to record your keystrokes into – let’s use r
  3. then doing your keystrokes
  4. then type q again to stop recording.

So qr6jf|c3w|width=autoESC9jf|c3w|width=80%ESCq

  • record a macro r
  • go down 6 lines
  • move forward to a pipe character “|”
  • Change the next 3 words to say |width=auto then escape edit mode
  • go down 9 lines
  • move forward to a pipe character “|”
  • change the next 3 words to |width=80% then escape edit mode
  • stop recording the macro

To apply that macro or play it back: type @r. Vim will play all those keystrokes back from where you are in a document. That’s really useful when you want to automate something repetitive.

I changed my mind in how I wanted something to look in a wiki at work. 80 pages needed to be changed in a dumb way and I thought it might take longer to explain to people that it needed to be done than to just do it myself. I started by copying each page to vim to edit, running a macro of keystrokes to make the change, then pasting the result back.

Then I hit a couple of pages that were slightly off. They broke the macro, which was long and complicated. I read up on how to edit a macro so I didn’t have to reenter it.

That’s when I found out that the “r” that we stored that macro in is just a register, just like you might yank into. In vim you copy/paste by yanking into a register with a y and pasting with a p:

  • fyt; – store in register f the yanking of everything on this line til a semicolon
  • fp – take what is in register f and put it where the cursor is.

I typed “rp and saw my macro contents there on a line. I edited the macro to account for these new differences and then did tD to delete the entire line and store it in register t. Then I went to the top of the document by typing gg and applied my macro t by typing @t and it just worked!

How cool is that? There is no new scripting language to learn – all the text you delete and paste is potentially also instructions. This must be what lispers feel like all the time.

Now I wonder about trying to apply documents as instructions to edit themselves….